Amsterdam Guide

BakingBar visits Amsterdam

Over the past few years we have visited Amsterdam several times and during these visits we have live blogged from Amsterdam. This page is now a combination of all those visits, recommending to you what we think is the best of Amsterdam. We’ll add to this article every time we visit of course.

Now sit back, make a cup of tea and transport yourself to Amsterdam while reading about our adventures.

The first question we are always asked is Where to stay in Amsterdam. We have always stayed in one of two places during our visits. We always use these hotels and would only recommend them to you as we have tried and tested them. They are:

Hotel de Westertoren  -

Hotel de Westertoren is the perfect hotel for us in Amsterdam, is combines the traditional architecture and historic feel with a very friendly family run atmosphere. Not to mention that it is so close to Dam Square that you can see the Royal Palace from some of the windows! We used to book our stay.

Hotel de Westertoren

When we first arrived in Amsterdam on our very first visit we were shocked at the hustle and bustle of a busy city which was so different to what we had just come from in Belfast. However it is hard to miss that although Amsterdam appears busy it is a very intimate city, with its tall buildings which dwarf the people who hurry around beneath them.

From the moment we landed our eyes were trained on any unfamiliar advertisements for foods, chocolates and crisps which we don’t have back home. Of course there are the similarities which result in us turning around to each other and muttering “oh they have those here too”.

Amsterdam is a bit of a culture shock coming from the UK, so if you are travelling from further afield it will likely be a larger shock, in a good way of course. You wont want to leave!!
One of the most evident differences is the sheer number of bicycles, now we don’t mean 30 or 40, we mean hundreds! In fact as your visit goes on you will begin to feel more and more out of place without a bicycle.

Central Station is certainly an amazing piece of architecture which we stood and gazed at in amazement for a quite a while. Snapping some pictures which we know we will look back on with great pleasure.

Your first day will always be a tiring one, tiring but amazing. There is so much to take in you will feel a little overwhelmed so we always recommend that anyone visiting Amsterdam should, at least on their first visit go for at least 5 days so you don’t feel rushed and get a good impression of the city.

Our first day was a tiring one from travelling but you'll spot plenty which you want to see and explore during the rest of your trip.

Amsterdam has quite a comfortable climate. This means it was not too warm to do plenty of walking, which we certainly did! On our journey across the city we discovered many mouth-watering window displays and probably sampled a few too many of them.

One of the immediate problems you will find in Amsterdam is navigating around, we spent many hours wondering around in circles, up and down the same streets scratching our heads. Its not necessarily a bad thing as we found loads of things we had missed the first time down the streets. You will get use to the layout of the city after a few days, your second visit to Amsterdam is always more enjoyable as you actually feel like you know where you are going. Amsterdam Centre is laid out in a spider’s web structure so you will get use to counting how many canals you have crossed to work out how to get back.

You’ll come across all sorts of bakeries as you wonder around a bit lost, pretending not to be. We came across these HUGE meringues in several flavours, this one is strawberry. Seriously though, they were absolutely huge! These were crafted by Bakkerij Marco Berens, Snoekjessteeg 1-3 5, 1011 HA Amsterdam.

At the very centre of Amsterdam you will find Dam Square. During the day the square is nearly always bustling with people but is normally just a meeting place except for during festivals where sometimes carnival rides and shows are set up there.

We discovered a hidden beauty… a bakery called Metropolitan Deli  which sold everything from pastries to cakes. Keep a look out for the giant slab of chocolate they keep near the door!

One place we recommend everyone go while they are visiting Amsterdam is The Anne Frank Huis. Whether you are interested in history or not this is something we feel that everyone should visit and experience. We recommend you booking your visit to the house online before your visit, its always good to be able to skip to the front of the queue. You can book tickets here

But we eventually found a cheese shop called Henri Willig. The shop front makes you want to walk in. The many samples of cheese on offer are very tempting. Being something which we wanted to buy while in Amsterdam we opted to buy some Dutch Green Pesto Cheese. The vibrant green colour of this cheese is fascinating and its taste is amazing. A deep herby basil and garlicky taste makes you want to eat more and more. We have already cut into this cheese which we doubting it will last before we arrive home. Maybe another wheel of it is needed?

We are happy to say that you can now order Henri Willig cheese online!

There is simply a wealth of restaurants, cafes, bars, bakeries and just about everything else a foodie dreams of. The Grasshopper Restaurant is a key example of a good, not too expensive restaurant in the City Centre. We both chose to have Chicken Satay Skewers with Fries and Salad. This was amazing! And this set up right for the rest of the day to come. We recommend checking out the Grasshopper Restaurant during your visit.

That evening we discovered what we consider to be one of the best reasonably priced Italian restaurants in Amsterdam city centre….Il Panorama situated Herengracht 194, Amsterdam 1016 which is actually helpfully on the same street as Hotel de Westertoren which we recommended above. Il Panorama has a very Italian feel where you are made to feel like one of the family in the intimate and always buzzing restaurant. Sit here and enjoy the romantic setting looking out over one of Amsterdam’s main canals.

The same day we went to de Bijenkorf which is a huge shopping centre located on Dam Square. This was also conveniently located just opposite Hotel Amsterdam de Roode Leeuw.
We continued up the floors of the store and finally reached the top floor which was a cafe area. However this cafe was very different and was more like a buffet from soups to desserts they had just about everything. We managed to take a few photos which are below.

Onward and upward in de Bijenkorf. It wasn’t long before we discovered the cupcake/baking themed display area. One brand which caught our eye and is now a firm favourite with us is called Blond Amsterdam. You can find their website here
We decided to buy some cake forks by Blond Amsterdam and I'm sure they will be taking pride of place in some of our baking pictures to come.

This wasn't all the store had to offer though as we discovered! They were also selling the Limited Edition Karl Lagerfeld Coca Cola bottles! However when we enquired they were completely sold out (from a few hours of them going on sale apparently!)
We spent many a day wandering down narrow back streets of Amsterdam looking for hidden gems of bakeries. Well that is what we say we were doing; truly we were lost most of the times but it’s still an adventure!

We adored this cupcake display made out of knitted wool! The Dutch certainly do have a sense of humour!

We found this shop just off Dam Square selling IAMSTERDAM merchandise which seems to be just about everywhere in Amsterdam. This shop itself is amazing! The roof is decorated like grass with full size cows standing on the ceiling. This photograph really doesn’t do the visual effect justice.

More pictures from our trips are on Facebook under our Amsterdam Albums.

We have since written an article for Zomppa International Food Magazine regarding our visit to Amsterdam and this can be found here.